Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.
The Graying of Our Incarceration Nation
Friday, 27 December 2013 By Conor F McGovern, Truthout | Op-Ed
The incarceration of vast swaths of the American public is now an aging issue. Our prisons have increasingly become homes for the aging, as there are now some 125,000 prisoners age 55 or older, nearly quadruple the number there were in 1995. Many of these prisoners are serving life sentences, but others soon will be released into society facing special hardships because of their age. They will join a massive and steadily increasing population of aging ex-offenders who always will bear the scars to their mental, physical and financial well-being that come with having been a prisoner in America.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that between 12.3 million and 13.9 million Americans - overwhelmingly male, disproportionately people of color - have been convicted of a felony and between 5.4 million and 6.1 million served prison time. Many young men imprisoned during the early years of the prison boom in the mid-1980s are now well into middle age. More than one-third of all Americans who have spent time in prison are older than 50, and nearly 9 percent are older than 60.